I had to run by the library last night on my way to my Bible study. It was one of those moments of being told I had a book due, that I was 99.9% sure I had already returned. The librarian was very nice, and found the book on the shelf, so all was good. As riveting as this is, it isn't really what I want to share. Instead, listen in to this conversation I couldn't help overhearing while I waited to see if the librarian could locate the book.
Youth (maybe late middle school or early high school) to another librarian: Do you read? What do you read?
Librarian: Yes, but I don't read Harry Potter, I mainly read from the adult shelves. (Pauses) But I did read a YA novel. It was called Code Breakers, and about the Navajo Indians during World War II.
Youth: Oh, did they break some rules?
Librarian: No, they were speaking Navajo so that the enemy couldn't understand them.
Youth: Was that the time when the Jews went to hide in caves?
Librarian: Noooo. (Changes subject rather abruptly, and frankly I don't remember what she said next as I was still a bit fixated on that previous sentence.)
Youth (not quite so willing to completely change the subject): Is it easier than Harry Potter? Man, that Harry Potter was hard.
Librarian (clutching at any change of subject): Here, I'll show you where you can find it.
Youth (as he follows librarian): Hey, you know my teacher, she said to put a slip of paper in my book. That way I'll know where I am when I stop reading.
At this point they disappeared to another part of the library, and my librarian returned. I'll never know where the conversation turned next. I also swear I am not making any of this up. I mean, how could I? The only thing I can't quite convey in writing it out is the similar vocal characteristics this boy had to Bill and Ted during their Excellent Adventure. (A movie, I kind of love, by the way.)
I wasn't sure then, and I'm still not sure now whether to laugh or cry. I also wanted to shake the librarian a bit, because how often do you get such an opening to do some real education? I know she was uncomfortable, but what a golden opportunity!
It can be so easy to get stuck in the inwardly eye-rolling, "why don't these kids know anything?" mentality, that we can miss our chance to help them actually know things. This kid didn't have to be in the library at all, but there he was asking about books, asking questions, curious. He may be more than a little fuzzy about how much of life works, but everyone has to start somewhere.
I am also kicking myself more than a little bit for not jumping in. It's not as though I don't do this (explain history and stuff) with children all day long. I would have enjoyed having a discussion with him. But there is the real loss in busyness... the missed opportunities because you 'don't have time.' If I had been ten minutes late, what difference would it have really made to me? Not much, truthfully. And it could have made a whole bunch of difference to him.
It would also have meant interrupting a conversation. I don't like to do that, though I have in the past. I kept hoping that the librarian would would actually start to engage this boy in conversation, and by the time I was pretty sure that she wasn't, the opportunity had already passed.
Ah, hindsight. So not helpful.
I have a new article published: How to Help Your Child through RAD. (In full disclosure, I don't title my articles, and I don't particularly like this one.)